Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – July 2017

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Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

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This month’s fiction book is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. What a book! What a story! It took the author ten years to research and finish this novel.

Our novel tells the story of Marie-Laure of France and Werner of Germany. Both young people are coming of age during World War II.

The chapters of the book alternate between Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s stories.

The author explores their childhoods before the war. Next, he follows them to new homes at the onset of war. We get to witness how each young person joins the war effort in their own way. The two teens meet during the bombing of Saint-Malo. I don’t want to give away too much of the story except to say that it is riveting. The reader really grows to care about the characters and is really invested in their outcomes.

We get to learn about radios and the big part that they played in communication before, during and after the war.

The novel’s heart is all about doing the right thing. Not necessarily the easy thing, but the right thing! We all can do this! We can treat other people well and with respect. The novel is filled with heroes trying to do good while surrounded with so much evil.

Anthony Doerr won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel. Many book club members thought that this was the best book that we read this year.

All the Light We Cannot See

Book Club

The After Party – Morning Book Break – June 2017

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Morning Book Break Book Discussion on
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

Rating: The novel received ratings between 1.0 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 3.89. Three members gave the book a 5+.  The novel was well received and it was a perfectly positive fit for our last discussion of the season.

Review:
Most members found the depth of historical information presented to be remarkable. Several members commented on the difficulty of keeping the characters straight. Several members loved the book and found the novel to be cleverly constructed and they praised the author for her ability to weave a mystery out of historical facts. The overwhelming presentation of red herrings led to the plausibility of the mystery. Some members were initially excited to read about the Hindenburg, only later to be disappointed as they were unable to connect with the numerous characters. Several members found the writing to choppy and uneven, while others found Lawhon’s writing to beautifully descriptive. One member thought the novel was melodramatic and rang of Titanic themes.  Finally, all members felt better informed about the Hindenburg and its destruction.  Members raved about the discussion and enjoyed the diverse opinions.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Conversation about the structure of the novel and the ability of the author to create suspense even though the outcome is known.
  • Members appreciate the character headings at the beginning of each segment as it was difficult to track all of the characters.
  • Members marveled at the historical accurate details about the Hindenburg and members were impressed as to how the author incorporated this minutia of detail into the novel.
  • Members enjoyed hearing about the state rooms, bathrooms, service rooms, smoking room, observation desk, and the meals and cocktails served.  One member remarked about how she was hungry after reading about the delicious fine meals. The Hindenburg was truly a luxury liner! Members spoke about Emilie’s role as the only female crewmember onboard the ship and her responsibilities to the passengers.
  • The group discussed the differences between air travel at the time and air travel today.  Obviously, there is a great contrast and members shared amusing stories about their air travels.
  • The group talked about which characters they found most sympathetic.  Overall, the group had great sympathy for Werner, the fourteen year old cabin boy. Additionally, they were sympathetic to Emilie’s plight. No one in the group had any sympathy for “The American.”  The facilitator gave four reasons to sympathize with “The American,” and still no one felt his actions to be justified.
  • The facilitator briefly explained the current theories regarding the explosion of the Hindenburg and all the members thought Ariel Lawhon did a marvelous job of addressing and including each theory as a possibility.
  • The facilitator asked if anyone would like to travel on a modern airship, the group resoundingly stated, “NO!”

Resources:

For other books and audiobooks by Ariel Lawhon , please click here.

http://facesofthehindenburg.blogspot.com/

http://www.airships.net/hindenburg/

Read-a-Likes:

Flight of Dreams

 

Morning Book Break 2016-2017 Season Wrap-Up:

Members praised the facilitator for providing a fine selection of diverse books this season.  Members thoroughly enjoy attending discussion days.  The least favorite reads of the season were: In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences, Modern Romance, and My Name is Lucy Barton. The overwhelming favorites for this season were: The Nightingale, The Marriage of Opposites, and Flight of Dreams.  Voted most important read of the season was Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Members are sorry to see the season come to a close and they can’t wait until September for the first discussion of the 2017-2018 Season.  If you’re interesting in attending, stop by the Readers’ Advisory Desk for the 2017-2018 Flyer, which will be available in mid-July, and sign-up with a Readers’ Advisor. If you’re already signed up, keep an eye out on the blog page for September’s title!

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels – June 2017

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Books and Bagels Book Discussion on
Georgia by Dawn Tripp

Rating: In Books and Bagels, the novel received ratings between 2.5 and 5.0. The average of the ratings was 4.09. Two members gave the book a 5.  The novel was a terrific ending to the 2016-2017 Season.

Review:
The author, Dawn Tripp, in an interview with Caroline Leavitt, discussed what drove her to write a novel about Georgia O’Keeffe.  Growing up Dawn Tripp had admired O’Keeffe’s art, but after visiting an exhibit of her abstractions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Dawn desired to know about this radical American artist. Dawn Tripp asked herself the following questions: “Who was the woman, the artist, who made these shapes?  What did she think, feel, and want? What was happening in her life? And why hadn’t I seen the full range and power of her abstract work before? Why wasn’t she known for this?” Dawn Tripp kept thinking: “Here is a woman most people know of, yet at some level barely know at all.”  During the discussion, group members talked about how we all knew of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art, but knew little about her as a person.  All members agreed that Dawn Tripp meticulously addressed all of the above inquires and we all felt we had a better understanding of Georgia O’Keeffe and her art.  We all believe Dawn Tripp drew a lovely picture of Georgia and the passion that drove her art.

Discussion Highlights:

  • The book reveals the passionate love affair and marriage of the young, intelligent, fiercely independent Georgia and the father of modern photography, Alfred Stieglitz.  The novel mainly focuses on the years that Alfred and Georgia were together.   Many members were aware of the photography of Alfred Stieglitz; they did not know about his affair with Georgia and his influence on her art and world recognition. We discussed where Georgia would be as an artist without Alfred to guide her. We also discussed the passionate affair and love scenes displayed throughout the novel.  Most members thought this portrayal assisted in understanding what drove these artists. Some members believed that the love scenes distracted from the rest of the engrossing historical novel.
  • Georgia’s struggle to balance her work with her ongoing relationship with Arthur Stieglitz and the dynamics of the complex relationship.  We discuss what Georgia would have achieved without Stieglitz assistance and marketing/branding.  We discussed at length the artistic photos Arthur Stieglitz took of the young Georgia and what these photos meant to Alfred and Georgia and how their exhibition influenced her work.
  • Conversation about the challenges Georgia, a groundbreaking artist, faces in a world dominated by men.  Discussion centered on gender dynamics.
  • The sacrifices Georgia makes to become a legendary artist.  The passions needed to pursue this type of life.
  • We discussed our favorite paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • We all thought Dawn Tripp used beautiful descriptive language. We thought the novel was well-written, well-edited, and poetic.

Resources:

For books in our collections about Georgia O’Keeffe, please click here.

Georgia O’Keeffe a Life in Art from Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on Vimeo.

https://www.okeeffemuseum.org/

Read-a-Likes:

Georgia

Books and Bagels 2016-2017 Season Wrap-Up:
Members thoroughly enjoy book discussion days and look forward to attending each month. The least favorite reads of the season were: Modern Romance and Did You Ever Have a Family. The overwhelming favorites for this season were: The Nightingale and Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Members are sorry to see the season come to an end and they can’t wait until September for the first discussion of the 2017-2018 Season.  If you’re interesting in attending, stop by the Readers’ Advisory Desk for the 2017-2018 Flyer available in mid-July, and sign-up with a Readers’ Advisor.  If you’re already signed up, keep an eye out on the blog page for September’s title!

Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – May 2017

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Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That
Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

by Ed Catmull

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This month’s book is Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, a non-fiction pick. Dr. Catmull holds Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and physics, and a PhD. in computer science. Throughout his illustrious career, he has made huge contributions to the computer graphics field. Ed is a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and is currently President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The book outlines seven core principles for a creative culture in the workplace. They are as follows:

  1. Quality is the best business plan. It is the standard that you aim for.
  2. Failure isn’t a necessary evil. Failure is a necessary risk of any creative endeavor.
  3. People are more important than ideas. Improving ideas starts with the team.
  4. Prepare for the unknown. There will always be problems. Enable your employees to solve them and move on.
  5. The goal isn’t to make things better, it is to make better things.
  6. Everyone should be able to talk to anyone in the company. Proper channels just aren’t efficient.
  7. Honest, candid feedback leads to better ideas and a better work culture.

If you enjoy Pixar films, Dr. Catmull reveals the processes behind some of their biggest blockbusters. Pixar films has two mantras- that story is king and to trust the process.

Currently, Pixar Animation releases three films every two years. Two films are brand new ideas and one is a sequel to a previous film, like Toy Story or Cars.

The group really liked this book! The audiobook is a real treat to listen to. While discussing the book, the group agreed that we would all love to work at Pixar with Ed and his creative team.

There is no read-alike bookmark for Creativity, Inc. because it is a one-of-a-kind read!

Book Club

The After Party – Books & Bagels and Morning Book Break – May 2017

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Rating: In Books and Bagels, the book received ratings between 4.0 and 5.0+. The average of the ratings was 4.43. Three members gave the book a 5+.  This book received an unusually high rating as compared to past books selected for club.

In Morning Book Break, the book received ratings between a 0 and 5.0+.  The average of the ratings was 4.72. This was also an unusually high rating.

Review: 

Morning Book Break: Members found the book very informative, but the information presented was depressing. Most members would rather not focus on end-of-life issues and most members could only digest the book in small chunks. In spite of this fact, members found the book to be exceptionally well-written and inspiring.  Several members thought it should be a book everyone in the medical profession should read. One member thought this selection was the most valuable read since she has been attending book club.  Members would definitely encourage others to read the book. Members have noticed that Atul Gawande has been on several network news shows and members are glad to be informed about current topics/events.

Books and Bagels: Members overwhelming would and have recommended this book to others. Many members are now going to purchase this book to give to loved ones and also, to give to several doctors. Members believe this is a foundational book, which should be read by every medical professional prior to graduation. Members found the book to be a necessary, important read. One member said, “Definitely, have a tissue box ready if you decide to read.”  Discussion centered on what worked and didn’t work in end life experiences. Members spent time sharing personal preparations. One member pointed out that Atul Gawande is listed in Fortune’s May 1, 2017 issue on p. 46 in the article 34 Leaders Who Are Changing Health Care. Members are excited to read about current information and they feel up-to-date.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Conversation about the personal narratives and anecdotal stories shared by the author
  • Members found the stories to be fruitful and provided helpful insights apart from the facts, figures, and statistics
  • Complexities of medical education and insufficiencies regarding medical training for death, grief, and end-of-life decisions
  • Effectiveness of Doctor Styles: Paternalistic, Informative, and Interpretive
  • Evolution of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospice and what matters most in the end
  • Striking a balance between hope and reality
  • Dr. Gawande’s personal story of his father’s terminal illness
  • Healthcare costs and potential remedies/medical funding/quality-of-life issues/death with dignity
  • How traditions/spirituality influence the concept of being mortal
  • Shared tips/strategies for effectively dealing with mortality—what is involved in a “good death”
  • Aging in the US and abroad
  • Tension between safety and independent living/joyful existence
  • Combating the “Three Plagues of Nursing Home Existence: Boredom, Loneliness, and Helplessness”

Resources:

For other books by Atul Gawande in our collection, please click here.

We also own the Frontline DVD Being Mortal; the film explores the interactions between doctors and patients approaching the end of life.

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Atul Gawande recommends doctors begin to talk about the inevitability of death with terminally ill patients and he recommends a good place to start is with the use of the “Serious Illness Conversation Guide.” He wrote the guide at the following link to find out what terminally ill patients understand about their condition and what their goals are as the end nears.

http://www.talkaboutwhatmatters.org/documents/Providers/Serious-Illness-Guide.pdf

Read-a-Likes:

Being Mortal

Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – April 2017

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Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf

This month, our book club selection was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf.

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff) was an American novelist, who wrote six books. All six books were set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. Kent earned a BA from Nebraska Wesleyan University and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa.

His name may be familiar from his Plainsong series. First published was Plainsong, followed by Eventide, with Benediction finishing the trilogy. All three novels became bestsellers.

Sadly, on November 30, 2014, at the age of 71, Kent Haruf died at home from interstitial lung disease. Our Souls at Night, his final work was published posthumously in 2015. His wife, Cathy, and his editor, Gary Fisketjon, were instrumental in getting the novel ready for publication.

Addie Moore visited her neighbor, Louis Waters, with the following proposition; please come to my house to sleep with me at night. Not sex, just companionship at night. Both neighbors had been widowed and they were in their seventies. They found that nights were the loneliest part of the day for them. They would fall asleep telling each other their life stories.

This act of bravery on Addie’s part began a sweet and tender friendship for both of them. Their children and grandchild did not live close. The two friends started sharing meals, chores, and travel.

Before he passed, Kent told his wife that he was going to write a book about them. He sure did. Our group just loved this touching story. Mr. Haruf’s novel really is a beautiful gift to us all!

Netflix will be releasing the film version in late 2017, starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda.

Our Souls at Night

Book Club

The After Party – Morning Book Break – April 2017

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Morning Book Break Discussion on The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Rating: The Marriage of Opposites received ratings between 4.0 and 5.0, with an overall average rating of 4.56.  

Review: The Marriage of Opposites received high marks from all book club members.  Members enjoy generational historical fiction with strong women characters and this novel delivered in these aspects.  We enjoyed a fascinating discussion about the life and times of the father of Impressionism, Camille Pissarro.

Discussion Highlights:

  • Several members appreciated the structure of the novel including the way the chapters were entitled.  This was useful in tracking both the timeline and the vast amount of characters.
  • (Spoiler alert!) Several members were haunted by Lydia’s abduction.  Members were horrified to learn it would be twenty years before she saw her mother again.
  • All members were transfixed by Alice Hoffman’s descriptive language which transported them to the sights, smells, and sounds of St. Thomas and Paris circa the 1800’s. Members loved the vibrant, accurate descriptions of St. Thomas and Paris.  Members who have traveled to these locations felt the author captured them exquisitely.  One member said she literally could feel the humidity of the island.  Members thought the writing in The Marriage of Opposites was the work of a gifted, talent artist—one who could write skillfully about another artist.  Hoffman definitely understands the emotions conveyed on a canvas.  
  • Several members stated that the novel was a quick read and they were unable to put it down. Many chores and necessary tasks at home were left undone!
  • Members enjoyed the compelling characters with such interesting lives.
  • Sadly, members wished we had more time to discuss some of the motifs and magical realism presented in the novel, especially the turtle-girl/woman.

Resources:

The members viewed several of Pissarro’s paintings and then they were asked the following question:

Did any of Pissarro’s paintings that remind you of scenes in the novel?
How does
The Marriage of Opposites convey Pissarro’s style?

You can view some of Pissarro’s paintings by clicking here.

Read-a-Likes:

The Marriage of Opposites

Book Club

After Dinner Mints – The Dish on Just Desserts – March 2017

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Just Desserts Discussion Group talks about
The Phantom of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux

This month, our group read Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Louis Alfred Leroux. Many of our members have seen various productions of the musical, but none of us had read the book before.

Gaston Leroux was born in Paris in 1868. He studied law in school.  After school, Gaston started writing as a court reporter, theater critic, and international correspondent. He covered the 1905 Russian Revolution.

In 1907, Leroux began writing fiction. In 1908, he wrote The Mystery of the Yellow Room. In 1911, Leroux wrote The Phantom of the Opera.   It was not well received until the 1925 film with Lon Chaney hit the movie screen. There was also a huge revival when Andrew Lloyd Webber turned it into the longest running musical of all time! Leroux’s contribution to French detective fiction is considered a parallel to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s in the U.K. and Edgar Allan Poe’s in the U.S. He was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur in 1909.  Leroux died in 1927 in Nice.

We shared a great discussion about the author, the novel, and the former Paris Opera House. In 1858, Emperor Napoleon III of France ordered a new opera house be built in Paris that would be the envy of the world. Over 700 architects competed for the position of Chief architect. Charles Garnier was chosen for the job. The building was built on three acres with seven roads like spokes of a wheel coming out from it.  The new opera house had seventeen floors with eighty dressing rooms.  It opened to the public in 1875.

This beautifully written gothic novel explores light versus darkness, love versus obsession and unrequited love. We all agreed that the theater is a very romantic setting for our story. We also talked about the importance of masks to the story.

All in all, a magical evening with French pastries and an awesome discussion!

The Phantom of the Opera

Book Club

The After Party – Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break – Sept. 2016

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Books and Bagels and Morning Book Break Book Discussions on The Nightingale

Rating: Several members of Books and Bagels gave the book at 3.5, while most members rated the book between a 4.0 and 4.5.  The book received three 5.0s from the three men in the group.

In Morning Book Break, this book was much beloved by the members who attended. The book received between a 4.0 and 5.0 with the exception of receiving one 3.5.

Review: Overall in Books and Bagels, the members felt Kristin Hannah crafted a compelling story and the main characters were well-developed. Many in the group had not previously read Kristin Hannah’s books and plan in the future to read some of her other works. Kristin Hannah states that her personal favorites of her own work are: The Nightingale, Winter Garden, Homefront, and Firefly Lane.

In Morning Book Break, members were thrilled that this book was selected to discuss. The members loved the richly developed main characters.

Discussion Points – Morning Book Break:
*Dilemmas faced by the main characters.
*Narrative structure and narrator selected.
*Emotional connection to the story.
*Previously read novels set during this time period. One member preferred Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.

Discussion Points – Books and Bagels
*Several members felt the story was compelling, but the quality of writing was deficient.
*Due to the epic nature of the story, some members felt the plausibility of main characters lacking.
*Many members shared anecdotes about their experiences during World War II.
*We also discussed other Holocaust novels. Two members thought Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky to be higher quality read.
*There was much discussion about the moral/ethical choices made by the characters.

Resources: http://kristinhannah.com/

http://www.jewishbookcouncil.org/book/the-nightingale

Kristin Hannah’s inspiration: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/18/world/europe/18jongh.html

Readalikes:

the-nightingale

Read-a-Likes

Read-a-Likes: Nevada Barr

If you like Nevada Barr’s brand of suspenseful mysteries with a strong sense of place, try these authors:

C.J. Box
Deborah Crombie
Sue Henry
Joseph Heywood
Anne Hillerman
Tony Hillerman
Skye Kathleen Moody
Marcia Muller
Jessica Speart
Dana Stabenow

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